Hometown product Main returns to lead Mountaineers

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BENNINGTON — Southern Vermont women's basketball coach Christin Gowan was the new Mountaineers' coach for a couple of days last spring when she had lunch with men's basketball coach Dan Engelstad, who had a tip on a player that could help her team.

"Dan told me that his assistant, AJ [Mahar], had a cousin who used to play basketball," Gowan said after practice on Friday. "He told me to talk to [AJ]."

His cousin was Maddy Main, a four-year varsity player for Mount Anthony, who graduated in 2015.

"I texted AJ and got Maddy's number," Gowan said. "We met, chatted for a bit and I could tell something was missing from her academic experience so far. She missed playing and we hit on that with the opportunity to play here."

In the proverbial blink of an eye, Main has taken a leadership role and has played herself into one of the top players in the New England Collegiate Conference.

"She saw the need in our team, we didn't have that one true leader," Gowan said. "The basketball IQ never goes away, even though she was out of [the game]. She's from a basketball family, she played growing up, watched the game. She wasn't going to miss a beat as far as what we were doing as a team."

The numbers bear it out: Main is averaging a double-double this season through 22 games, scoring 15.6 points per game and grabbing 11.5 rebounds a night. She's the top scorer in the New England Collegiate Conference and fourth in rebounds per game and also 25th in the entire division in rebounds.

She's third in double-doubles with 12, behind Wheelock's Katie Walsh and Newbury's Jaymesha Sanders.

At the same time, she's second overall in total minutes played. She's been in the game for 852 of a possible 880 minutes and has played the full 40 minutes 15 times and she's been named the conference's rookie of the week five times.

After graduating from Mount Anthony, she went to college at St. Anselm in New Hampshire, but didn't play basketball. After one semester there, she came back closer to home, attending Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) for the next three semesters.

"It cost a lot of money to go to St. Anselm and MCLA was closer to home," Main said. "I figured I would finish [going to school] there and graduate early, but then AJ messaged me that [SVC] has a new [women's basketball] coach and that I should come and talk to her."

Even though she didn't play competitive basketball for the two years in college, the bug from a life-long love of the game was still there.

"I didn't pick up a ball until last spring," Main said. "AJ gave my number to coach and I met her only a week after she came here."

When they met, Gowan said they just clicked.

"I just knew AJ, he endorsed her to me and then me to her," Gowan said. "It wasn't a huge change going from MCLA to SVC, but the draw to be in Bennington and to play basketball was bigger than anything else."

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So during the summer, Main's job was to get ready to play college basketball after not playing for two seasons, a task that was easier said than done.

"I wasn't even shooting in the gym, I was nervous to come back. I played with some family over the summer and did the workouts that Coach Gowan had given to all the players. There was one in the beginning where I had to make like 15 shots in a row right in front of the hoop ... it took me 45 minutes! The first two weeks were so bad, I was awful. It was embarrassing, but I was determined. It was tough in the beginning."

Eventually the time came for the fall semester to start and along with everything else, Main, majoring in business, became involved with the cross-country team.

"I've always ran just to stay in shape, even not playing basketball," Main said. "We had to volunteer at the home cross-country race and I thought, 'I could do this. I wouldn't be in the front, but I could definitely beat some of these runners."

She talked to coach Jarrett Blankenship to join the team and had some success in that arena as well.

"Running is hard, you do it by yourself," Main said. "It made me more focused and helped me mentally. For me at that moment, that's what I needed. The conditioning was good, but it helped me with the mental part."

Main's running experience made things that much easier on October 15, the official opening day of basketball practice.

"I think I was just really determined, I didn't want to play like a freshman or sophomore," Main said.

"She hit the floor running on Day 1," Gowan said. "She wills everything to happen. She's not the fastest runner or the best shooter, but she plays way harder, her effort never wavered."

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The crowd for an SVC women's basketball game is sparse, but with Main, there's always a contingent of family and friends in the bleachers.

"There's a big crowd every night for Maddy, they love watching her play," Gowan said. "She has a nice fan club. They've come out for our fundraisers as well, we've had team dinners at Maddy's house."

Main said she loves the support.

"We don't have a lot of fans, it's mostly my family," Main said. "It's a fun thing. I'll text my cousin, 'hey, I have a game' and she's like, 'I'll be there." My grandmother gets to come here and watch, she loves it. My dad and sometimes my brother is here. It's fun for them too, I don't have to talk about the game, they were here to see it."

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Gowan said Main's success will be a benefit not just this season, but beyond, as she goes out to recruit players.

"It was awesome that Maddy fell into my lap, thanks to Dan and AJ," Gowan said. "It validates that the kids from the local schools can come here and be a star here, we've never had that in the past. Maddy and Reileigh and Bentleigh [Harvey] are the core of that. Hopefully we can build those relationships."

Main said the ability to play close to home wasn't something she thought about when she graduated from MAU, but if local students want a choice to stay, SVC is a good choice.

"I know the feeling of leaving [Bennington] and coming back," Main said. "It's an eye-opener."


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